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Cellphones Businesses Your Rights Online

Compromise Struck On Cellphone Unlocking Bill 77

Posted by timothy
from the pit-carrier-against-carrier dept.
NotSanguine (1917456) writes The U.S. Senate has passed a bill (S.517) today, allowing users to unlock their phones when moving to another provider. From a recent article at thehill.com: "Consumers should be able to use their existing cell phones when they move their service to a new wireless provider," [Sen. Patrick] Leahy said in a statement. "Our laws should not prohibit consumers from carrying their cell phones to a new network, and we should promote and protect competition in the wireless marketplace," he said. [Sen. Chuck] Grassley called the bipartisan compromise "an important step forward in ensuring that there is competition in the industry and in safeguarding options for consumers as they look at new cell phone contracts." "Empowering people with the freedom to use the carrier of their choice after complying with their original terms of service is the right thing to do," he said. The House in February passed a companion bill sponsored on cellphone unlocking from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)." Also at Ars Technica, as pointed out by reader jessepdx.
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Compromise Struck On Cellphone Unlocking Bill

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  • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Friday July 25, 2014 @06:24PM (#47535501)

    Very few phones work on both CDMA2000 networks (Verizon and Sprint) and GSM networks (AT&T and T-Mobile), and they're hard to find in U.S. stores. Mail order doesn't let you hold the phone and get a feel for its size, weight, screen, and buttons before you buy.

    What decade are you living in? Most recent phones have been either phones that work on both AT&T and T-mobile or LTE phones with multiple bands which would work on multiple networks. It is only the retarded Verizon specific phone that are designed to work on their bastardized version of the 700 Mhz band that have less utility on other LTE networks.

  • by KingOfBLASH (620432) on Friday July 25, 2014 @06:33PM (#47535547) Journal

    True story:

    My sisters's iphone screen broke. I asked her what she was doing with it, she said "Nothing, Apple wanted $100 to fix the screen but I just signed on for another contract with Verizon and got a free iphone."

    This is how a lot of people think, and they're too naïve (or dumb) to realize the truth (no comment on sis). Her iphone is worth several hundred dollars, and if the phone is fixed for $100 she still comes out ahead. Verizon, meanwhile, will charge her more per month and actually, she's losing money on the deal.

  • Re:does not compute. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enry (630) <enry&wayga,net> on Friday July 25, 2014 @06:43PM (#47535605) Journal

    This should allow you to move a phone between Verizon and one of their MVNOs [wikipedia.org]. While Verizon and AT&T use different technologies, T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM and LTE. As VoLTE becomes more popular and increases, I think most cell phone providers will start to standardize on that, which will mean they're all using the same technology (if not the same bands) and moving a phone between Verizon and AT&T may be possible in a few years.

  • by clonehappy (655530) on Friday July 25, 2014 @07:12PM (#47535777)

    This is a tech site, we're supposed to be people who keep up with the latest in technology. I'm not sure, exactly, why I have to keep posting this over and over, but here we go again:

    The "retarded" Verizon specific phones are actually some of the most compatible phones you can buy today. Not only do they work on the Verizon CDMA and "bastardized" LTE networks, but they include full functionality for GSM and HSPA networks. I have two Verizon phones, right at this moment, that I'm using full time on other networks with full capability. My Verizon iPhone 5S is currently being used on an AT&T postpaid plan. All LTE, HSPA, and GSM functions work with 100% compatibility. My Verizon LG G2 is being used on T-Mobile with full LTE, HSPA, and GSM services. Nearly every phone worth having today is fully compatible with the GSM/WCDMA (HSPA) network technology. Phones are becoming more compatible, not less.

    Now, everyone always wants to trot out the fact that you can't take a phone from Carrier X and move it to Verizon, and this is true. Very few use cases actually involve moving a phone TO Verizon, however. But to say that Verizon phones are the bastard child of the cellular industry is simply untrue. In fact, they are more useful to some people, including myself, as I can take the aforementioned G2 or iPhone and put my Verizon SIM back in it and go on my way. Phone manufacturers have no incentive to make multiple product lines, yet they all still need to support Verizon as the largest carrier in the United States. So they make compatible phones, then simply disable the ability to connect to CDMA on the ones sold to GSM/HSPA providers. But the Verizon ones are compatible with GSM/HSPA and CDMA, making them the most versatile of all.

    At any rate, things being more open rather than less is always a good thing. There are plenty of cases where a phone geek such as myself can benefit from having unlocked handsets lying around. Say someone breaks a phone, or an iPhone fanboy wants to try out Android (or the other way around), or traveling overseas, or trying out a new MVNO or prepaid carrier...just pop in the SIM and you're on your way. And as for the GP, millions of phones work on CDMA and GSM (and their descendents), they're just all sold by Verizon. But the FUD machine wants you to think there's no good reason to have handsets with carrier mobility, and for many folks, that's simply untrue.

  • Re:does not compute. (Score:3, Informative)

    by mathwhiz99atucb (203884) on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:36PM (#47536209)

    I don't understand how this is technically possible. don't you need a different type of phone to go from Verizon to ATT? like taking your TV to Japan.

    It depends on the device. Some devices will work across all of the Big 4 carriers in the USA. The iPhone 5s/5c is one example. It contains all the radio equipment necessary to connect to any carrier's LTE signal frequency (3G fallback might be an issue between CDMA and GSM). I would expect these radios to become more prevalent as time progresses.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @12:39AM (#47536977)

    The "retarded" Verizon specific phones are actually some of the most compatible phones you can buy today. Not only do they work on the Verizon CDMA and "bastardized" LTE networks, but they include full functionality for GSM and HSPA networks. I have two Verizon phones, right at this moment, that I'm using full time on other networks with full capability. My Verizon iPhone 5S is currently being used on an AT&T postpaid plan. All LTE, HSPA, and GSM functions work with 100% compatibility. My Verizon LG G2 is being used on T-Mobile with full LTE, HSPA, and GSM services. Nearly every phone worth having today is fully compatible with the GSM/WCDMA (HSPA) network technology. Phones are becoming more compatible, not less.

    That's not quite true. CDMA phones with LTE have GSM SIM cards because the LTE spec requires it. Most of them also have GSM capability, while the GSM-only versions don't have CDMA capability. So that respect you're right that Verizon and Sprint phones have better global compatibility than GSM-only phones.

    However, a lot of newer phones are limited in which frequencies they support [phonescoop.com]. Your Verizon G2 for example only supports LTE at 750 and 1700 MHz [phonescoop.com]. Verizon's LTE bands are at 700 and 1700 Mhz [wikipedia.org]. T-Mobile's and AT&T's are at 1700 Mhz. Sprint's however are at 800, 1900, and 2500 MHz. So your phone won't get LTE with Sprint.

    Unfortunately, Congress has dilly dallied on this issue for too long. We're now past the point where mandating carriers unlock phones will help. There are still phones which will work across a broad range of carriers like your G2 [phonescoop.com], but they are now few and far between. Most of the newer phones are restricted in their frequencies so they'll only work fully with one carrier. Take it to another carrier and you'll either suffer degraded service, or even lack certain service (like no LTE on your Verizon G2 with Sprint). So even if you can unlock your phone from the carrier, it won't do you any good because you'll lose 4g or even 3g capability if you try to use it with another carrier.

    The only thing that will help now a law mandating that carriers must provide service to any phone a customer brings with them that's capable of operating on their network. That will open up the markets so that manufacturers begin selling multi-carrier and world phones directly to customers (bypassing the carriers). You can still buy a phone from Verizon if you really want, and it'll be crippled so as not to work with any other carrier even if unlocked. But the smarter person would buy the version of the phone sold by the manufacturer at Best Buy or Amazon which supports enough frequencies that it'll work with any carrier. That's actually what Google did with the Nexus 5 - it supports enough frequencies to work on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and a bunch of other international carriers. It's technically capable of working on Verizon, but Verizon blacklists it so you can't use it on their network at all. What we need is a law making it illegal for Verizon to do that.

    Incidentally, for anyone cursing CDMA in the U.S. complicating matters, don't. CDMA won the standards war. Your GSM phone uses CDMA - most HSPA implementations are wideband CDMA. It's only because the U.S. didn't mandate GSM and allowed carriers to try out different technologies that a superior tech - CDMA - was able to prove itself in the market and was eventually incorporated into the GSM spec. If CDMA hadn't been around, we'd probably be stuck with 1 Mbps or slower data speeds today. (LTE works very similarly to CDMA, except in the frequency domain instead of the code domain. Each phone is assigned an orthogonal set of frequencies, while in CDMA they're assigned an orthogonal set of codes.)

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